story by Claire Miller
For the last seven years, Lisa Bracken (B.A. ’04, M.P.A. ’09, Ed.D. ’23) has overseen all things financial for Atlanta Public Schools.
Her role as the school system’s chief financial officer means leading a 65-member staff and managing Atlanta Public Schools’ $1.5 billion annual budget. Everything from payroll and benefits to accounting, budget management and contracted services falls under her purview.
“I also have the privilege to serve on the cabinet of the superintendent, and I take seriously the opportunity to weigh in on district-level decisions – not only through the lens of finance, but with a broader view of the greatest good for Atlanta Public Schools students,” she said.
Bracken knew she wanted to earn a doctoral degree and became interested in the College of Education & Human Development’s educational leadership doctoral program because of its cohort model, where a group of students takes coursework together for the program’s duration.
This cohort structure became even more important when she and her classmates first met in person – one year into their program, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We quickly developed routines of alternating who was ordering lunches, bringing donuts, checking in on each other and holding each other accountable. This was so important in building the deep relationships we now have,” Bracken said. “While the pursuit of an advanced degree is very personal and singular, there are many times that the cohort rallied around each other and provided support and accountability that made this process infinitely easier and more rewarding.”
She also appreciates the support and advice she received from Associate Professor Nick Sauers, Clinical Associate Professor Sheryl Cowart Moss and the other faculty in her program, who have worked in educational leadership for many years and are dedicated to their students’ success.
As a newly-minted triple Panther, Bracken will be able to apply what she’s learned from her cohort and faculty into her work in Atlanta Public Schools.
“My post-degree plans are to continue to invest in the district with an expanded understanding of what the academic leadership is facing in their decision-making,” she said. “I believe that this degree makes me a more well-rounded leader and better able to engage in district-wide decision-making.”